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Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Initiative

In 2008, The Lustgarten Foundation launched a $1.25 million Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Development Project aimed at developing new early detection and screening methods.

One of the challenges with pancreatic cancer is that many times, the cancer is already advanced by the time it is found. Yet, diagnosing the disease before it has spread can help change the course of treatment and often times, the outcome, for many patients. Identifying the correct pancreatic cancer biomarkers and producing antibodies against them is the first step toward developing an early detection blood test for this disease.

What are Biomarkers and Why are They Important?

Effective cancer prevention and early detection involve the discovery of biomarkers. Biomarkers are substances found in the blood, body fluids or other tissue that show the risk or presence of cancer before it has had the opportunity to progress in the body. They can be used to detect disease at very early stages, and as tools for the development of new drugs and therapies. In 2007, The Lustgarten Foundation undertook an extensive bioinformatics analysis of the published literature to identify the top 60 most promising biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.

Armed with this new listing of biomarker targets, in March 2008 The Lustgarten Foundation launched a Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Development Initiative to identify and develop biomarkers for clinical use. A Consortium of investigators representing four leading cancer research organizations, including Dr. Brad Nelson on behalf of the Canary Foundation, Dr. James DeCaprio of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. James Marks of University of California at San Francisco and Dr. Brian Cao of Van Andel Research Institute, will investigate a total of 60 candidate biomarkers.

It is our hope that this unprecedented antibody panel will form the basis for further studies evaluating the use of these targets for early detection (ELISA-based) assays; diagnosis-based assays; prognostication; imaging and developing therapeutic targets. The antibodies will be stored publicly at the National Cancer Institute through its Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) in order to provide a freely available resource to the cancer community at-large. In a special partnership effort, The Lustgarten Foundation and the Canary Foundation will jointly support efforts to build blood-based assays for 20 candidate biomarkers. The Project is expected to complete in 2009. Ultimately, it is our hope that this Project will lead to the development of new diagnostic methods, and that screening for pancreatic cancer can someday be as simple as receiving a blood test in your doctor's office.

Special thanks to the Harry T. Barbaris, M.D. Memorial Fund for providing support for the Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Development Project.

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